Fundamentals of Data Visualization

A Primer on Making Informative and Compelling Figures,
by Claus Wilke, O’Reilly, 2019

More people are working with data than ever before, and there is more need to understand the data using visualisations. But what type of graphic helps you understand the nature of the data? Bar or pie charts? Graphs or maps? Other plots? This book is a great introduction to graphic design, so you can make a pleasing figure which clarifies the trends and clusters hiding within data.

This book is not about the new tools we have for creating graphics; it is all about design.

The book is well written and has been edited to O’Reilly’s high standards, so it is a favourite book.

Getting MEAN

Getting MEAN With Mongo, Express, Angular, and Node 2ed by Simon
Holmes, Manning 2019

With the advent of social web sites and apps there has been a big change in the design architecture of the sites. The volume of traffic is up, the response is expected to be near-immediate, and the cost of running the servers is expected to be lower. At the same time, the requirements are relaxed a bit for correct transactions: if one in a million posts to a social site go astray, that is not a big loss (compare that to the banks’ site’s requirements for correctness, c.f. ACID).

Enter the new technologies: the Mongo no-sql database, the Angular web page structure, and the Node/Express Javascript back-end framework.

This book is a great introduction to these new technologies, assuming that you know Javascript. The book is very readable, has lots of examples, and will get you developing excellent sites.

Network Propaganda

Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics
by Benkler, Yochai

This is written by folks at the Berkman Centre, Harvard University. It is a close examination of the problems which amplified the voices of the alt right to give Trump a win in 2016. It discusses Facebook manipulation, Cambridge Analytica, Twitter re-tweet bots, Russian interference, and the Breitbart centered media circus.

The network link analysis is impressive, with visualisations that substantiate the authors’ conclusions.

The discussion of mediacloud.org is the highlight of this book for me.

C# 7.0 in A Nutshell

by Joseph Albahari, O’Reilly, 2017 | 7th edition,

A In-A-Nutshell book over 1000 pages!  Now that I have gotten the shock out of my system..

This book is intermediate to advanced; you need come to it with some programming experience. It has been edited to O’Reilly’s high standards, so it is a pleasure to read.

If you are developing Java-like apps on Microsoft Windows, you are probably best off with C# because its .net libraries integrate well with the Microsoft ecosystem. And now that you are using C# you should have this book, you need to understand all the concepts underlying the language. The alternative to books, using online C# and .net documentation, is diverse and scattered.

The book uses the term ‘frameworks’ to identify several ways that Microsoft systems can be integrated to create apps using .Net.  Frameworks like LINQ and a few others.

How JavaScript Works

How JavaScript Works, Douglas Crockford, Virgule Solidus, 2018

You will remember Douglas Crockford, creator of the JSON Data Interchange Format, the world’s most loved data format, and the jslint utility to help you debug your code. He is an opinionated JavaScript expert who wrote “JavaScript: The Good Parts” . The book rightly suggested that you just use the good features of JavaScript, and shun the bad ones.

His new book, How Javascript Works is not for beginners. It is scathingly critical of JavaScript, though the language is clearly the author’s favourite. It explores cases where JavaScript does unexpected things, or things which are clearly incorrect. It compares features with how they work in other languages. For an example of a questionable design decision, numbers are stored as floats. This has implications which can trip you up and we learn all the details.

Crockford devotes a few chapters to discussing the libraries he created to support big numbers and a rational data type. This is an opportunity to learn how to write great code.

A humorous book, net weight 1 pound (it says so on the cover), publisher name is Virgule Solidus. That is printed on the cover in a slanted font with the l’s aligned vertically, and Crockford has explained that in latin both the words mean forward slash. (as you no doubt know, slashes start a comment in Javascript). Crockford has started to correct the English language, and as a first step he has changed the spelling of ‘one’ to ‘wun’. Very good!

The book is clearly self published. I wish O’Reilly had edited it!